Thursday, January 11, 2018

Abaya Fashions in Jeddah

It's been a while since I posted about abaya fashions. When I first moved to KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) back in 2007, pretty much all that was available was a black heavier polyester blend with the differences being in the subtle embellishments and a slight variety of styles.  I would ask for different colors or prints in lightweight cotton or linen or some type of thinner flowy fabrics - but it just didn't exist.

Beige abaya with red and black leaf lace overlay accents

In the ensuing years, abaya fashion has evolved and has grown to include a much wider variety of styles, colors, and fabrics.  Abayas are definitely not just black any more. 

My two favorite places to purchase abayas in Jeddah are Souk al Shatea and Macarona Souk. They generally have sale racks and the abayas are often more reasonably priced than at the malls, although good deals can be had at malls too.  Al Balad also has many affordable abaya shops, but it can be more of a hassle getting there for me since I live farther north and Al Balad is in the south.  

Gray print abaya with colorful floral fabric trim

Black abaya but with bright colorful trim accents

Souk al Shatea not only offers a huge selection of shops that sell affordable abayas, but they also have shops that sell housewares, home decor, clothing, stationary, toys, beauty products, party supplies, tailors, fabrics and notions, etc. 

Navy and white printed abaya in silky fabric

Silky print fabric - I didn't care for the bright colored trim on the cuffs though
Macarona Souk has dozens of shops that sell reasonably priced abayas too, as well as a good selection of excellent tailors if you wish to have a custom made abaya. Surprisingly enough, having an abaya custom made generally costs about the same as buying off the rack. 

Bottom border print fabric

I have seen abayas for as little as 30 SR (about $8 US).  Of course one can spend a small fortune on abayas made of silk with lots of high-end blingy embellishments.  The sale racks in the above photo offer abayas for 100 SR, which is about $26 US.  If they are not on sale, most retail abayas sell for between 200-300 SR ($53 - $80 US). For a garment that is worn every time a woman leaves her home, that's not too bad. 

Black abaya with contrasting baby blue touches
I really enjoy shopping for abayas now.  When it's hotter out, I can wear just a long cooling slip underneath - yes, there is a fabric for undergarments now that is actually cool to the touch. It's nice to have a choice of styles and colors, but I do find that I have 2 or 3 favorite ones which I wear more often.

White fabric blend with green and blue Palestinian style embroidery

Creamy white abaya with print trim
Abayas always come with a matching scarf.  Scarves like the one above, which has matching fabric from the abaya on its ends, tend to weigh it down, pulling and wrapping it tighter around my neck though, which I don't like.

Black abaya with red and blue Palestinian style embroidery details

Belted purple velvet top with black skirt and white floral accents
Hope you enjoy seeing the variety of abayas featured in this post!

Beige abaya with printed trim and fringe on sleeves

White fringed abaya and a green abaya with ruffled sleeves

To see photos of more abayas and how my feelings toward them have evolved, here at a couple of previous posts I wrote on abayas:

The Abaya - Back in Black

Embracing the Abaya


  1. It's so nice to see the variety of abayas available to you now.

  2. I love the variety of patterns and colours!

  3. ...a much different look at life.

  4. Oh wow that sure is a vast variety of abayas!

  5. Really helpful for me to see the types of styles and patterns available and to get an idea of price. Thanks!

  6. Thank you so much for showing this. They look really pretty. I might move to KSA and I never been so I don’t know exactly how it works in terms of limitations of clothing. I guess my question if i buy some of these Abayas can i wear them outside? Or only black sbah is allowed outside? If not only black the. What other colors are allowed? Thank you so much in advance!

    1. Hi Sara - Abaya fashion has really changed in Saudi Arabia. These can all be worn when out and about, even in Riyadh too. Abayas are not just black any more! I've seen colors of all kinds. Just this past week, a cleric said that women shouldn't be restricted to wearing abayas when out, as long as they are properly covered. This would mean no more need for layering which makes us even hotter. Loose fitting clothing would be acceptable, like pants or long skirts, long sleeves and no cleavage showing. We'll see what happens!

    2. Hi Susie, this is Dana Knowles. Really enjoyed your article. I got back into Jeddah about a month before Ramadan and was really excited to see the new fashions after not being here for a couple years. I'm headed out today to buy a new abaya and I am going to go to the soups that you recommended and possibly down to the Ballad but you're right it is a hassle. Anyway I love your sense of fashion and it's good to be home. Salaams

  7. Great post! thanks for shring.

  8. Hello Susie, I just stumbled onto your blog, and have read quite a few of your posts now. Fascinating to see how you view KSA, and also to read about the big changes going on there at the moment, regarding women's rights and allowances.

    I have mixed feelings about these changes though. I am not Muslim, but I have always admired Muslim women for their modesty, and devotion to their Husbands and family. It is a very precious thing that we do not have in the UK, or in the West in general. And the traditions of dressing modestly, and of being largely invisible in public also appeal to me, especially the tradition of having gatherings that feature women only.

    When I go out in the UK, I always feel terribly exposed as a women, and judged constantly on my appearance, and I feel this makes many western women, especially younger ones, very insecure and neurotic, and I would personally really enjoy the anonymity and protection of wearing something that would cover my body entirely, and make it much less likely to me to draw attention from men. I will just say that I do have a decent figure, but this is not vanity, it is just because I feel it is important to be fit and healthy.

    The idea of women only gatherings too, seems to me to be a great advantage, a bit like a hen night, or an anne summers party in the UK, where women can laugh and relax and not worry about the unwanted pressures of dressing for men. And when I read on one of your blogs that there are restaurants for families and separate ones for single men, this delighted me enormously, I would almost want to move to KSA right away, except that I do not like the political situation there at the moment. (regarding allied war).

    So finally I suppose I just wanted to say, it is great that women in KSA feel better, and feel more free, and I fully support them. But I do hope that things will not change so much there, that it will end up being so awful as it is here for women, where we all have to wear jeans and jumpers, and get eyed up at every turn in the supermarket, when all we want to do is shop quietly. Or where it is impossible to go out and meet with friends for a drink, because there will always be men there pushing their own agenda.

    1. Hi Rarna - Thanks for your comment. I doubt that Saudi Arabian women will lose their moral compass. You are mistaken if you think that men in KSA don't oogle, grope or harass women though. It happens. Of course not by all men but it happens enough to where I have heard many stories from many women about it. It even happens in Mecca during HaJ. I do think that the younger generation would like to see strict gender segregation go. Honestly my opinion is that it is not normal and actually quite unhealthy and can and does lead to societal problems. Moderation, as always, is the key.

    2. Hi Rarna!! i love the way you view the lifestyle of saudi women. I live in KSA and i feel sad for what you said...even i don't want many changes in ksa. But the rules here have changed pretty much. Now women are free to wear any dress of their choice and the way it's going I doubt KSA will become like Dubai anytime soon. But modesty will remain. In Sha Allah

  9. Hi. Thanks for this post! Do you know of a place called Gardenia in Jeddah for abayas? I'm sure that's where a lady told be to go but I can't find it online at all.